The Strip Club

378 Maria Ave. Saint Paul, MN 55145(651) 793-6247domeats.com

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It’s not what you’re thinking. I mean c’mon, give me some modicum of credit. I’m not about to stoop so low as to review the food in a nudie joint. Although that does pose an interesting thought for a spin off stripper review site, “Ferocious Nudie.” But as misleading as the name might be, The Strip Club does in fact serve up some serious flesh… in the form of beef, pork, poultry and fish. So good it’s actually worth venturing into this sketchy part of town.

For starters I highly recommend the pork belly with the spicy carrot slaw on top and the crispy cauliflower drizzled with yogurt. The seared foie gras is also good, but it is sadly overpowered by the English muffin base, the duck egg and the glazed apricots, so much so that you barely even taste the foie gras. Making it a good starter kit for those just toeing the waters, easing them into their first time, but for true lovers of the livers, you will feel a bit cheated. And last of the starters for me would be the beef tartar over hummus. A bit on the whatevs side of the four.

On the entrée side of things, be sure to skip the duck or pay dearly with order envy should those around you go with the filet mignon or the braised lamb. Both were superbalicious yet simple in their preparations, allowing the meat to shine in all of its mouth-watering glory.

And for dessert we went with the fresh baked chocolate chip cookies, served with a crème anglaise dipping sauce, which actually proved to be my least favorite dish of the night. The cookies were the under baked, doughy kind, which always feels like a cheat to me to get to gooey. And the créme anglaise tasted more like a grasshopper milkshake melted down. But even with ending on a sweet and sour note, I have to give props where they are due. The service was great, the décor relaxed and for some bizarre reason, the patrons old, which is a bit of a downer, but it also somewhat tempers your fears of the neighborhood, because let’s be honest, if anyone is getting mugged, it’ll probably be the sweet old lady, not you.

4 teeth

Makoto

9700 Collins Ave. Bal Harbour, FL 33154 • (305) 864-8600 makoto-restaurant.com

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It’s rare for mall food to surprise and delight, but then again, it’s pretty rare for a mall to have the flagship restaurant of Morimoto’s former sous chef. Also, to be fair, we aren’t exactly talking about your Gap, Banana and J. Crew kind of mall. It’s more like Bottega Veneta, Moncler and Chanel. Which makes for some nice opulent people-watching.

But don’t get scared off by the price tag just yet, because Makoto is probably the most affordable thing in the place. And while the cost of the food is reasonable, the restaurant itself is priceless. Easily among the top three Japanese meals I’ve ever had.

Here’s why. Every single dish was presented and tasted like a work of art. The kobe carpaccio with jicama melted in your mouth. The ceviche with watermelon ice and wasabi peas was the most inventive ceviche I’ve ever laid lips on. Even the Japanzanella salad was the most interesting panzanella salad I’ve ever had, made with flash fried cubes of rice as the croutons.

And while it’s hard to say any one dish was my favorite, because everything was so tremendous, the short rib noodles were my favorite. Served with a healthy dose of raw red cabbage on top to give it crunch, the contrast of flavors and textures with the buttery soft meat and noodles was simply a stroke of genius. And speaking of strokes, if I keep eating this way I’m probably going to have one, so stay tuned for a few healthy reviews in the near future.

As for now, however, let’s talk about volcano cakes. Not necessarily an ultimate per se, but a damn fine showing. Filled with a layer of crème anglaise, because why not? And placed next to a dome of vanilla ice cream topped with wafer cookies sprinkles because regular sprinkles are obviously for philistines.

5 teeth

Son of a Gun

8370 W 3rd St. Los Angeles, CA 90048 • (323) 782-9033 • sonofagunrestaurant.com

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Being the sister restaurant to Animal, my favorite place to eat in LA, Son of a Gun had a lot to live up to. And considering I dragged four coworkers there with me to try it, my neck was on the line. Well, I am happy to report that my neck is doing very nicely, thank you. In fact, one might go so far as to say my neck was lauded upon for such a recommendation.

Walking in, the place is nothing like its starker, minimalist sibling. Son of a Gun is enjoys a fisherman’s haute décor with all sorts of nautical paraphernalia hanging on the walls, including deer antlers?

As a result, it is very casual and down to earth. The food, however, is out of this world. We must’ve ordered a dozen dishes and not one of them was bad. Only two were just okay. And everything else fell somewhere between great and excellent.

Among the long list of winners was a salmon crudo with jerk spice, kiwi and habanero. Sounds spicier than it is. And one of the most flavorful raw seafood dishes I’ve ever devoured. Another huge hit was the soft shell crab tempura with pork belly and cinnamon. It was cinnaful.

The octopus salad with fennel, chickpeas radishes and chili was another star(fish). Much spicier than it let on by the looks of it, appearing more like an innocent salad. But one bite and complexity popped you one right in the kisser. As Jimmy Walker would say, it was “dynomite!”

From the crustacean food group, we went with Dungeness crab served in little rolls drizzled with apple yuzu and each garnished with an beautiful, edible purple flower. They were so creamy, yet bright, you would swear they crossbred the crabs with dairy cows. Such a simple, wonderful display of balance and proportion.

Even the chicken sandwich (pictured) was awesome, which was a tad out of place on the menu, assumingly there for those who don’t dig on fish. But this bird is no afterthought. Might be the best chicken sandwich I’ve ever had. Tough to share though, but we somehow managed to power through it.

Other solid, but slightly more mortal dishes were the two-bite lobster rolls and the skate wing. Both are very good, but you’re probably getting adjective fatigue at this point, so I’ll try save the gushiness for where the gushiness is due.

The only true miss of the night was the only waitress reco, the smoked mahi. And the only eh of the night (I’ll take the blame as I did all of the ordering) was the shishito peppers. They were good, just nothing special.

And finally, dessert. On this SOG went an impressive 3 for 3. The deconstructed key lime was light and refreshing. The banana bread was superb. But the closer was the raspberry and peach pie with crème anglaise – stomach pumping good.

This is one fish tale that lives up to the legend.

5 teeth